October 20, 2011

California Passes Divorce Law For Same Sex Couples

Posted in Divorce, Family Law tagged , at 7:23 am by demetriagraves

The California legislature has just passed a bill, which was signed into law in October by Governor Jerry Brown that allows same-sex couples to divorce who got married in California but now reside in another State. Or couples that have always resided in another State but came to California to get married when same-sex marriage was available in California and are now wanting a divorce but are unable to get a divorce in their home State. The bill is titled SB (Senate Bill) 651.

One aspect of the battle over same-sex marriage has been the lack of access to divorce courts for same-sex married couples that reside in non-recognition states. Judges in many states have refused to grant divorces to lesbian or gay couples who went elsewhere to get married or have relocated from the state in which they got married, on the grounds that granting a divorce would constitute a form of official recognition of their marriage. Most of these couples are not asking a judge to grant them any property or spousal support based upon their marriage, since they’ve usually already settled those issues – they just want to get an order of dissolution. And the couples have good reasons for wanting the court order. Even if they have resolved their financial affairs, they need to get a divorce so they can be free of future liabilities and so they will be able to marry or legally partner a new romantic interest.

The legal origin of these problems stems from what is referred to as the “domicile” rule, which means couples ordinarily can only get divorced in the state in which they reside at the time of their break-up, regardless of where they lived when they got married. The purpose of this rule, which goes back more than a century, is to prevent nasty spouses from evading the divorce rules of the state they live in, by simply hopping across the state line to get a divorce in another state. For example, if a husband in New York didn’t like the property rules imposed on him by the New York court, it would be unfair to his wife if he could simply drive a few miles away to a more lenient state and file for divorce there.
While these rules may make sense for heterosexual couples who can always get a divorce in whatever state they live in, they wreak havoc for couples who live in states that won’t grant them a divorce under any conditions – even if they’ve reached a property settlement with their spouse. This is a vivid example of where the denial of the right to marry ends up as a denial of the right to get a divorce.
The new law will go into effect in January 2012. It provides that if a couple got married in California but lives in a state that won’t grant them a divorce (which is presumed if the state doesn’t recognize their marriage), the California court will have jurisdiction to grant them a dissolution. The divorce case will be filed in the county where the couple got married, and the dissolution is supposed to be adjudicated “in accordance with California law.”
There is a lot that remains unresolved in this new legislation, especially what it means to adjudicate a divorce in accordance with California law if the spouses are not residents. But for those who have been able to reach their own private settlement agreement, this will enable them at least to obtain a formal dissolution. And, while there is also some uncertainty on the details, chances are the dissolution will be honored in other states, even non-recognition states. This will allow the ex-spouses to enter into contracts as a formerly married person, and to be treated once again as an unmarried person.
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October 13, 2011

Steps to Take If You’re Planning a Divorce

Posted in Divorce, Family Law tagged , at 12:11 pm by demetriagraves

Some couples who postponed getting a divorce because of the poor economy are finding they can no longer wait. If you’re among those planning to leave your marriage, there are important steps to take as soon as possible.

1. Get informed. In some marriages, one spouse handles the finances and the other has limited knowledge about the family’s assets. Copy print documents and computerized records about all of your family’s financial assets as early in the process as you can. Sometimes when your spouse learns you have hired an attorney, that’s when documentation can disappear.
2. Move money from joint accounts. Consider transferring some money from joint accounts into an account in your own name if you have little or no funds in your individual accounts. This ensures that you have money for groceries and other necessities in the event your spouse removes funds or limits your access to joint accounts. This is especially important if your credit cards and other accounts are all held jointly, as your spouse might close them in retaliation for you seeking a divorce. Make sure you talk to your attorney first before making this decision, however.
3. Consider whether you need to close joint accounts. If your partner is spending money wildly on drugs or indulgences, consider closing or canceling your joint accounts so your spouse cannot run up unpaid balances.
4. Try to talk constructively with your spouse. See if you can have a logical, thoughtful, and constructive conversation with your spouse about your lives after divorce, especially if you have children. Go to your attorneys with any ideas you have for moving forward.
5. If you’re a victim of domestic violence, file a domestic violence complaint to document what’s been happening at home. You can go to the clerk’s office at the courthouse to file or after hours you can call the police or go to the magistrate’s office. The judge or magistrate can sign a temporary restraining order removing your spouse from the home and protecting you until the matter can be heard with all parties present. If the judge then believes the allegations of abuse, he or she can sign a protective order that is in effect for one year.
6. Do not let verbal arguments get out of hand. I see good people who wouldn’t be inclined to domestic violence end up there. If you start having a heated argument, walk away before there is any shoving, grabbing or physical contact whatsoever. Don’t say things you’ll regret later.
7. Avoid arguments with your spouse in front of your children. What you say about your marriage or spouse in front of the kids could damage them for a lifetime. If you love your children, keep your adult problems adult and don’t involve the kids.
8. Sometimes, litigation is not the answer. Consider alternative ways of resolving disputes, such as mediation or collaborative law. These methods lessen the pain for you and your children. Hire an attorney who will help solve your problems and get results, someone who sincerely wants to help you resolve the case without painful and expensive litigation if that is possible.

If you’d like more information on the best way to proceed. I offer a free initial consultation where you can get your questions answered.

September 8, 2011

Why You Should Choose A Family Law Attorney

Posted in Custody, Family Law tagged , at 10:51 pm by demetriagraves

Choosing an attorney to represent you in a child custody dispute can be overwhelming. A simple internet search can produce hundreds of hits. But, not all attorneys are created equal. In a case where your relationship with your child is in jeopardy, you must give this decision a great deal of thought and consideration.

 Firstly, its important to commit to hiring an attorney to assist you in your family law or child custody matter. Many people believe that they do not need an attorney to represent them in court. This is true; you do not need to hire an attorney and are free to represent yourself in all legal matters. However, proceeding on your own, or pro se, can be a very difficult undertaking. Attorneys are familiar with court rules and procedures, and good attorneys will know how to utilize those rules in your favor. Do you have lots of evidence that you are an excellent parent and you want a judge to review this evidence? Well, if you fail to present it to the judge in the appropriate manner, a judge may never see this evidence. At the very least, it is important to know your rights as a parent. You should consult with an attorney at some point during your legal proceeding, even if you are unable to retain an attorney to represent you for the entirety of your matter.

 Family Law is a very specialized field, so it’s important to go with a family law specialist. Even within family law, there are further specializations. Imagine going to your family doctor for a serious neurological problem. If that doctor doesn’t refer you to a neurologist, then he has failed to fully care for you and your needs. Likewise, if you contact an attorney with a general practice who doesn’t refer you to a family law attorney, he or she is not giving you the best service. Each area of law has its own set of rules and hundreds of applicable statutes. For your child custody matter, you want an attorney who has committed themselves to the exclusive practice of family law.  This attorney will likely be up to date on the newest developments in family law, the latest changes to family law statutes, and best equipped to handle your matter. He or she may be familiar with the various family court judges in your area, as well as other local attorneys. All of this knowledge will benefit you.

Personality and philosophy; are you and your attorney a match? If you are not already familiar with a family law attorney, its important to find the right attorney. Many people look just for an attorney they can afford, but its also important to find an attorney who understands your goals and the manner in which you would like to achieve your goals. Do you want a pit bull attorney? Do you have unlimited resources and want to overturn every rock, exploring every possibility? Are you sick of fighting, ready to move on, and hopeful to reach agreements with your child’s other parent?  I recommend meeting with your potential attorney and talking with them. Plus see if they have any references who wouldn’t mind talking with you about their experiences. Hiring an attorney can be a major financial commitment. Make sure you have hired someone who shares your values, and clearly understands the outcome you are seeking.

If you would like to speak to an attorney to better determine your rights, and move forward in a child custody matter, or any family law concern. I offer a free initial consultation where you can get your questions answered.

July 14, 2011

Cheaters Beware – GPS Tracking Upheld by Court

Posted in Divorce, Family Law tagged , at 5:52 pm by demetriagraves

A New Jersey appeals court recently ruled that straying spouses tracked by GPS does not constitute an invasion of their privacy.

County Sheriff’s Officer Kenneth Villanova, sparked the debate when he sued his wife for invasion of privacy during their divorce proceedings, claiming the GPS invaded his right to privacy and caused him “substantial and permanent emotional distress.”
Initially, the officer included private investigator, Richard Leonard, hired by Mrs. Villanova, but dropped his suit against the wife and pursued the private eye. Apparently Leonard recommended Mrs. Villanova buy the device after he was unable to tail the police officer on his own. Two weeks after the device was installed, Leonard caught the officer leaving a driveway with another woman.
Appellate Judges Joseph Lisa, Jack Sabatino and Carmen Alvarez said no direct evidence proved the GPS, installed in the plaintiff’s glove compartment for 40 days before he noticed it, captured Villanova in any secluded places where he had a right to expect privacy. The device only tracked Villanova’s movements on public streets, and that information was then passed on to Leonard via Villanova’s wife, said Judge Lisa.
There are currently no state laws governing the use of GPS tracking devices. Villanova’s suit was the first of its kind.
This ruling does not affect law enforcement officers, in June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a lawsuit that will determine whether police need to obtain a warrant signed by a judge before installing GPS trackers on the citizen’s vehicles.
Following an arrest and conviction on cocaine charges, Antoine Jones, a Washington, D.C. nightclub owner, argued that the warrantless use of the GPS device clearly violated his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed and tossed Jones’ conviction in August 2010 “because it was obtained with evidence procured in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Jones asserted that police used a GPS device to track his every move for at least a month prior to his arrest. The Amendment, which falls under the Bill of Rights, also requires law enforcement officers to have probable cause in order to secure search warrants. A ruling on the matter, which the Obama Administration disagrees with, is expected by October.

June 2, 2011

Landmark Divorce Rulings

Posted in Family Law tagged at 7:03 am by demetriagraves

As a Family Law attorney its important to know about the history of family law and be familiar with many of the landmark cases that fundamentally changed divorce law as we know it. Family court judges use such cases as precedents when determining divorce settlements and custody agreements. It’s not just a matter of deciphering the dissatisfied grumblings of estranged spouses and sifting through a mountain of papers and legal evidence. I was recently asked about the most important divorce cases to date–those that had a profound effect in changing divorce law and became known as landmark rulings. So here’s a quick summary of some of those historic cases and their rulings.

Diemer v. Diemer (1960): William and Gilberte Diemer were married in a Protestant ceremony in 1947, despite their differing religious affiliations–he was a Protestant; she a Catholic. Their religious differences became a problem in 1954, when, after suffering an accident, Mrs. Diemer consulted a priest and issued an ultimatum to her husband: she would not have sexual relations with him unless he agreed to a second marriage ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church. Unable to change his wife’s mind, Mr. Diemer left home and sued for separation. A New York Appeals Court ruled in his favor, stating that refusal to have sex with one’s spouse constitutes an abandonment of the marriage.

See v. See (1966): In this 1966 decision, the Supreme Court of California ruled that property acquired during a marriage is presumably joint or “community” property, owned jointly by both spouses and divided in the event of divorce. If a spouse has “co-mingled” separate and community property in one account, and suggests that an asset acquired during the marriage is “separate property,” he or she has the burden of proving that there was a deficit in the community funds when the asset was purchased. If such a deficit cannot be proven, the asset is considered “community property.”

Kulko v. Superior Court (1977): In this case, a father from New York sent his children to visit their mother in California, who then attempted to modify their custody agreement under California law. The Supreme Court held that state courts do not have jurisdiction over nonresidents. Therefore, the act of sending a child to a different state to live with or visit a custodial parent does not give jurisdiction to that state over the parent who does not live there–in this case, the father. This case has had far-reaching implications both in terms of civil cases concerning jurisdiction over out-of-state residents, as well as in custody cases where there are ongoing issues regarding interstate custody of children.

McCarty v. McCarty (1981): A California court initially ruled that military retirement pension is joint property, and therefore dividable after divorce per California’s dissolution of marriage laws. However, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 1981, saying that military retirement pay is the personal property of the retiree. One year later, Congress passed the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act (USFSPA), which effectively overturned the Supreme Court decision. The law states that military retirement can be considered joint property based on the divorcing couple’s state of residence.

Re-Marriage of Burgess (1996): In this case, the Superior Court of Kern County reversed a decision by a California Appeals Court that said that if a custodial parent wishes to relocate to another city or state with his or her children, he or she is required to prove that relocating is in the “best interest” of the minor children. The Superior Court ruled that “a parent seeking to relocate does not bear a burden of establishing that the move is ‘necessary’ as a condition of custody,” unless the non-custodial parent has proven that the move would cause a “detrimental impact” upon the parent-child relationship. If the detriment is proven large enough, the court would decide if a change in custody is appropriate.

Gonzales v. Munoz (2007): According to this California Appeals Court ruling and under the Domestic Violence Protection Act, a trial court is authorized to make custody and visitation orders without both the mother and father proving parent-child relationship when the orders are necessary for the safety of the child. The order reads: “In making a determination of the best interests of the child and in order to limit the child’s exposure to potential domestic violence and to ensure the safety of all family members, if the party who has obtained the restraining order has established a parent and child relationship and the other party has not established that relationship, the court may award temporary sole legal and physical custody to the party to whom the restraining order was issued and may make an order of no visitation to the other party pending the establishment of a parent and child relationship between the child and the other party.”

April 28, 2011

High Traffic in California Family Law Courts

Posted in Family Law tagged at 10:49 am by demetriagraves

California Family Courts deal with a huge volume of traffic every year. Just the Los Angeles Superior Court – Family Law handles 100,000 filings per year. This means that there are often inevitable delays. One way to smooth and speed the process is to ensure that you are represented by an experienced Family Law Attorney.

The high number of filings combined with the fact that a high percentage of litigants in family law are unrepresented, which means they don’t have an attorney. Many courts have adopted local rules and procedures in an attempt to more efficiently process the high volume of family law cases.

Because of the complexity of Family Court procedures, many parties who chose to represent themselves in their divorce or other family law proceedings make errors that negatively affects the outcome of their case.

The California Supreme Court found, in its landmark 2007 decision, Elkins v. Superior Court, that certain time-saving procedures, such as video testimony, deprive family law litigants of due process protections. Due process is the name given to the minimum “process” necessary to allow litigants to have a full and fair hearing of their issue.

In Elkins, the California Supreme Court, while sympathizing with the overworked family courts, noted the stakes in a family court case:

But family law litigants should not be subjected to second-class status or deprived of access to justice. It is at least as important that courts employ fair proceedings when the stakes involve a judgment providing for custody in the best interest of a child and governing a parent’s future involvement in his or her child’s life, dividing all of a family’s assets, or determining levels of spousal and child support.

Access to justice requires that parties be able to appropriately address the court and present their cases.The California Legislature responded to the Elkins case by passing Assembly Bills 939 and 1050. AB 939 ensures that parties in family courts will have the opportunity to testify in their case. AB 1050 requires that courts allow children age 14 and older to testify in cases affecting their custody or visitation.

Both acts by the legislature seem reasonable, and in view of the Elkins decision, are now required. But they both will come with a price. The effect of allowing more testimony in family court cases will be delay. The courts will have to allow more time for every case. Without the legislature significantly increasing funding for the family courts, schedules will stretch farther out and cases will take even longer to compete. With the budget crises affecting California, however, it seems very unlikely the courts will receive any additional money.

So this is why it’s important that if you are considering divorce, or have another family law issue that you consult with an experienced family law attorney. They can help you minimize the time it will take to obtain a dissolution judgment and make the process smoother and less frustrating. Not to mention, making sure that you get a more favorable outcome in your case.

September 2, 2010

Judges Crack Down on Inappropriate Clothing in Court

Posted in Family Law tagged at 4:52 pm by demetriagraves

It seems like a no-brainer but I’ve been amazed by some of the clothing that people wear at court appearances.  Recently some Judges across the country have started cracking down on inappropriate clothing in their court rooms. So if you’re headed to court you’d better leave the flip-flops and jeans at home. Plus don’t even think about wearing short shorts to court. Many judges across the country are cracking down on skimpy, sloppy or what they consider to be inappropriate attire in an effort to maintain decorum and a sense of order in the courtroom.
 Some people seem determined to push the fashion envelope. I even heard of someone showing up to a court appearance in their PJs and they were promptly dismissed by the judge. Courts are a place where serious business is conducted, and that demands appropriate attire. It may sound like judges are out to treat people like school kids, but it’s expected that if you come to court, you need to treat it with the appropriate respect and dignity it deserves.

  Here’s some recent examples where judges have cracked down on inappropriate clothing:

• In May, Jennifer LaPenta was jailed briefly after a judge in Lake County, Ill., held her in contempt for wearing an offensive T-shirt to court.

• In Inkster, Mich., Joseph Kassab was turned away in April from the courtroom for wearing black jeans. He missed his traffic court appearance and was fined, and he’s challenging the dress code in the state Court of Appeals.

• The same thing happened to Linda West, who missed her court date after being refused entry in June to court in Bakersfield, Calif., for wearing flip-flops.

• In July, in Hamilton County (Ohio) Municipal Court, William Morse’s T-shirt featuring slasher-movie character Chucky and the words “Say goodbye to the killer” earned Morse a warning that he’d spend a day in jail if he came to court again with inappropriate attire.

  The need for many courts to adopt dress codes could be the product of a casual society and general ignorance of court culture. Many dress codes single out baggy pants, particularly those that expose undergarments. Though some attire may seem obvious choices to ban, other clothing can be a tougher call – and barring some attire can raise troubling questions about race, religion and access to justice.

  An increasing number of courts are adopting dress codes, and for security reasons some specify that faces be uncovered, posing problems for Muslim women wearing veils or burqas. That issue has come to the fore among judges and security personnel in the past six months. Courts may follow the lead of the Transportation Security Administration and have a female officer take a Muslim woman to a private setting where she can remove her face covering.

  Unfortunately, in all stratas of our society people tend to be judged by their appearance. This is not something that is limited to the court room. As a family law attorney I always advise my clients to dress appropriately for any court appearance. Like I said this may seem like a no-brainer, but many people don’t consider the impression that their appearance may make on others. When working within the legal system it’s important that you make a good impression and and inappropriate clothing can be a deal-breaker.

 

May 4, 2010

Common Family Law Myths Explained

Posted in Family Law, Uncategorized tagged at 4:19 pm by demetriagraves

As a Family Law Attorney, I often find myself sitting in the hallways of the courthouse waiting, and usually I come across many different people.  In these hours of waiting, I often hear unrepresented parties discussing their legal matters and I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what the law actually is.  I’ve decided it’s time to address these myths, and bring some clarity.  So here’s some common Family Law myths explained:

Myth: Having Joint Legal Custody means that each parent is financially responsible for half of everything the child needs.
Truth: Whether or not a parent has legal custody (versus physical custody) of a child has nothing to do with whether or not he or she has to pay support, or how much that parent will have to pay.  Legal custody dictates who gets to make major decisions for your child, like where your child will attend school, which doctor the child will got to etc. In most circumstances, Parents tend to “share” joint Legal Custody, which can change if the Parties cannot mutually agree to the important decisions.
Child Support it totally different then the Legal Custody issue, which is more based on the time or physical custody that each parent has,  the gross incomes of both parents, and and other financial factors, which assists the court in determining the state “guideline” based on the above mentioned factors.
Further, both parents may not be responsible for all of a child’s expenses.  Child Support is about covering the necessities in a lump sum.  Things like food, clothing, rent or mortgage payments.  There are plenty of things that aren’t considered necessary expenses, or that are covered by orders separate from a Child Support order.  There may be separate provisions for health care expenses, or extracurricular activities.  Often times, when it comes to discretionary spending that the parents don’t agree on (for instance, one parent feels it appropriate to buy the child a brand new car and the other parent doesn’t agree), the parent who disagrees may not be responsible for any portion of the purchase.
Myth: Whether or not a parent pays Child Support determines whether or not he or she has a right to see his or her child.
Truth: The obligation to support your child and the right to spend time with your child are totally separate issues.  A parent who puts his or her child at risk may be required to pay support, even though he or she is not allowed to see the child.  Likewise, a parent who cannot pay support may have an order allowing him or her frequent visits.   In the Family Courts, judges are looking at what is in the best interest of the child.  Most of the time, this is the child having both of his or her parents in his or her life, making financial contributions as stated by statewide “guideline” calculations.
Myth: You have a right as a parent to see your child.
Truth: To a certain extent, this is true, but not the way most parents seem to think about it.  As mentioned above, the Family Court is really protecting the rights of your child; your child’s right to be safe, happy, and healthy—emotionally, mentally, and physically.  Most of the time, this interest is best served when everyone who loves your child gets to play a part in his or her life.  This is why a court will order a visitation schedule.  Not because you as a parent have a right to that time with your child, but because your child has a right to that time with you.
Myth: You should tell the judge about every time the opposing party has wronged you.
Truth: Judges are busy people with full schedules.  One of the things they appreciate is brevity.  Some facts are relevant, others are not.  Chances are, if you recall every detail of every argument you’ve had with your ex-spouse or partner for the past three years, you’re doing yourself a disservice.   This is one of the many reasons why having representation in the  Family Courts is so important.  Attorneys understand the law, so that they can present the information the judge needs to make a decision without presenting information that might be harmful to your case, or simply irrelevant.
Myth: When a couple divorces, each person automatically gets half.
Truth: This is interesting because we do live in a “Community Property” state, but this is not always true.  If the decision is left up to the court (see next myth), the judge will consider a variety of factors in divvying up property.  What matters?  The list is long but includes who owned what before and during the marriage and how those things were acquired.  For instance, if one party owned a home prior to the marriage, the other spouse does not automatically get “half” of the house at divorce.
Myth: It’s best to just let the judge decide.
Truth: There are very few occasions when it is best to just let the judge decide.  Usually, people say this for one of two reasons:  they’re uncertain of what they want and how to ask for it, or; they’re so certain that they’re in the right that they’re unwilling to compromise.   Yet another reason why the assistance of an attorney can be crucial when it comes to Family Law matters.
An Attorney can let you know what expectations are reasonable when it comes to Family Law, and can express what you want in a way that makes legal sense.  More importantly, an attorney can let you know what expectations are unreasonable when it comes to Family Law, so that you don’t end up with an order you hate instead of an agreement you could have lived with.
There are very few times when the Family Court would be unwilling to accept an agreement the parties have come up with themselves.  As long as it’s fair, and the parties have touched upon all the relevant issues, a Judge is likely to approve an agreement.  Isn’t it better for a family to make decisions for itself, rather than asking a relative stranger to do so?

April 24, 2010

What is Family Law?

Posted in Family Law tagged at 8:21 pm by demetriagraves

It seems simple enough, but often I’ve found that many of the general public aren’t fully aware of what’s involved in the practice of family law, so here’s a brief outline.

Legal representation for any type of legal case requires that the attorney providing services understand the unique nuances of the applicable field of law. In the practice of family law, the stakes are often very personal, very high for those involved, and can be shrouded in emotion that can cloud judgment and drive outcomes. Because of the deeply personal challenges for those involved, it is essential to hire an attorney who specializes in the practice of family law; one who is experienced in facilitating the best resolution possible in the midst of, or perhaps in spite of, the personal and emotional barriers that exist.

Perhaps the type of family law that is evident to most people is divorce proceedings. An experienced divorce attorney helps the parties involved set aside the emotions of everything that has happened leading up to the divorce. Then the parties can approach the proceedings as a business transaction. It may not be a circumstance that the parties envisioned that they would be party to, but with the help of a skilled family law attorney the issues can be resolved.

All divorces are not created equal. Some are uncontested and others result in long and difficult battles. No matter what the level of the conflict, there are some consistent areas of family law that are related to divorce proceedings. These main areas of family law that are related to divorce are: property division, spousal support (alimony), child support and child custody and visitation.

In Property Division, the distribution of assets at the time of a divorce can be very complex. Retaining an attorney who is focused on a fair divorce settlement is essential to navigating these complexities.

Deciding who will have custody of the children and the conditions surrounding visitation is a highly emotional issue in a divorce. Each parent may have the best interest of the children in mind and yet have very different ideas about what is “best.” To facilitate the best outcome for the children and the parents requires that an attorney also be well versed in the specific factors that a judge must consider when deciding on custody issues.

There are formulas in place to help determine the amount of support paid by the non-custodial parent. A family law attorney helps to facilitate a fair child support obligation. There are also set guidelines outlined within the law that cover the subject of spousal support, which is also known as alimony.

Family court has jurisdiction over family disputes. One of the reasons family court is important is because it is designed to protect the welfare of children. Family issues like divorce and child custody can be sensitive. A lawyer who specializes in family law can offer you the right advice and help guide you through the process as painlessly as possible.

The key reasons why you’d want to hire a family law attorney are explained below:

Understanding: Your attorney has significant experience with family law and understands your situation. Also, your lawyer can offer you personal legal service and guidance to help you find closure.
The law is complicated: Legal issues can be complex and overwhelming. An experienced divorce attorney can explain family law and legal procedures.
Your lawyer will fight for you: A lawyer can make sure your voice is heard and that the issues you are concerned with are discussed.

If you have any further question about family law or the services I provide, you can set-up a free confidential initial consultation with me. I can go over your concerns and answer any specific questions that you may have.

February 19, 2010

Finding the Right Family Law Attorney

Posted in Family Law tagged at 12:00 am by demetriagraves

Many people don’t know where to start when they’re looking for a family law attorney. There are even statistics to support this as some studies have shown that most people spend two hours or less gathering information and selecting their attorney. So here are some tips to help you find the right attorney.

1.  Determine the type of lawyer you need.

In most states, a licensed attorney may practice in any field of law and not long ago most lawyers were general practitioners, meaning that they handled cases in many different areas of practice. Now days most attorneys concentrate on very specific areas, such as family law, and most states have a process of specialization for attorneys.

The law has become very complicated. Some jokingly say that our laws become more complicated as a direct result of their being so many attorneys! It is more likely that as our culture got more complicated, our laws followed. Whichever, the result is that it has become necessary for lawyers to concentrate their efforts on a particular field.

2.  Utilize referral sources.

Like many areas, good old fashioned word of mouth is often the best way to find an attorney. If you know of friends or family members who have had a positive experience with an attorney, you know that you’re much more likely to.

Another way to find a lawyer that does the kind of law you need is through other lawyers. You or someone you know probably knows a lawyer they could call and ask for a referral. Even if the lawyer you ask practices criminal law and you need a family law attorney, the criminal lawyer will be able to give you some referrals in the practice area you need.

There are also referral lists maintained by most local and state bar associations. The downfall of using these services is that there is usually no screening on the qualifications of the particular lawyer with the individual need. It is then up to the consumer to inquire sufficiently into the lawyer’s experience compared to the need of the consumer.

3.  Look online to research lawyers in the area you need.

The internet is an extremely beneficial source of locating a lawyer. Many websites maintain directories of lawyers nationwide. Most law firms these days maintain websites and usually you can find those through any search engine. Often lawyers are active in professional or community organizations which may be featured on a website. It’s a good idea to review an attorney’s website. This will tell you about the person and the areas they practice so you’ll know more about them before meeting in person.

4.  Meet in person

The initial interview is extremely important. I offer a free initial consultation so that you can get all your questions answered. Take with you to the interview all of the documents and other information that relates to your problem. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer about his or her credentials and how many cases similar to yours that she has handled.

Prepare a list of questions to ask when you get there – what is the law related to your case? What are the realistic outcomes? What is the lawyer’s philosophy for handling your case? Do they recommend a fight to the end, winner take all approach or one geared more toward settlement? Consider your comfort level with the attorney and the personal compatibility. Did you get a feeling of trust from the attorney? Did the attorney seem to know what she was talking about? Did the lawyer seem confident about your case?

5.  Establish reasonable expectations.

Many people have never dealt with a lawyer before, so they don’t know what to expect. First and foremost, you should expect frank, easy to understand advice. Your lawyer should point out for you the strong and weak points of your case and give you a realistic expectation of the potential outcomes. They should keep you informed and send you copies of documents pertaining to your case. If a lawyer gives you a guaranteed result, run the other way!!! Lawyers are prohibited from guaranteeing any particular outcome, so be very leery if this happens. Don’t expect your lawyer to act as a psychologist, financial advisor, tax planner, or to give any other advice outside of her expertise. If you need advice in other areas, consult a professional in that area.

6. When in doubt, get a second opinion.

Just as in the field of medicine, you might get three different answers from three attorneys. If you are left with a feeling of uncertainty after discussing your problem with one attorney, please do see a second.

To wrap this up I do hope that if you need a family law specialist you will come to me first. I’ll meet with you personally, answer your questions, suggest things for you to consider that you may not have thought of and give you a clear and easy to understand evaluation of the probable outcome of your issue.